The bad news: More pages means more work for everyone, especially Williamson's team. In addition to conducting interviews, the reporters check the accuracy of the facts in the magazine. "We're there from beginning to end," she says, "working with correspondents in the field as well as with our writers, editors, copyreaders and photo department. With monster issues like these, the pressure is enormous."
Ages are the most elusive facts to check, says Williamson, 47. "For professional reasons many celebrities don't want to give their real ages, and some rock stars can't remember theirs. But we'll track down the correct age even if we have to get their birth certificates or go back to their schools."
Raised in Scarsdale, N.Y. and Milford, Conn., Williamson joined Time Inc. in 1959, after graduating from Northwestern University. As a writer-reporter for SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, she covered the Winter Olympics at Innsbruck, Grenoble and Sapporo, and co-authored SI's award-winning series Women in Sport, which changed America's attitudes about female athletes. In 1982, after a two-year stint at TIME, she came to PEOPLE. "I thought it would be hard to give up interviewing, but curiously, I haven't missed it. And I certainly haven't missed traveling. I've been in so many Holiday Inn rooms that at times I didn't know what city I was in."
Williamson's increased work load now makes 10 a.m. to 4:30 a.m. shifts at the office commonplace. "I don't know why I have an apartment in New York," she says. "I could just live in the office." Her staff keeps her company. "I can't say enough about them and everyone here. This is the busiest we've ever been, and I've become much more of a Scrooge. But the work and the long hours haven't diminished anyone's sense of humor. I can still hear a lot of laughter in the halls. It amazes me."